American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

From the Director's Desk

Transforming Crisis into Opportunity

Heidi Nelson, MD, FACSHeidi Nelson, MD, FACS
Medical Director, ACS Cancer Programs

There can be little doubt that the pandemic is helping define the “must-haves” and criticalities in our professional and personal lives. Despite these difficult and disturbing times, which are projected to continue over the next several months, an optimist might see this as a good opportunity to start harvesting what we have learned in the last six months. Specifically, how can acute adaptations help us reshape the future in positive ways?

For one example, most clinicians and patients agree that at least some clinic visits could be conducted virtually, without a loss of fidelity in the process and/or outcomes. Codifying the legitimacy of virtual visits and ensuring post-pandemic payment reform may require the provision of evidence specific to the safety, efficacy, and value of virtual clinic visits. This makes one wonder if now is the right time to prospectively study virtual visits in order to provide the evidence and clarity necessary when such visits are appropriate or even preferred. Perhaps now is also the best time to start addressing geographic barriers in cancer care through the delivery of specialty consultative services in rural America. We could close some of the disparity gaps in cancer care with the application of new technologies that facilitate remote monitoring through virtual clinic visits.

As another example, perhaps as accreditation virtual site visits mature, the virtual hospital tour could be transformed into an opportunity to see the hospital through the lens of the patient. It is easy to imagine that such a tour could be like walking in their shoes, by providing great insights into how the practice facilitates the ease of cancer care delivery for the patient. Or perhaps it would be a good time to showcase quality activities at each step in the care pathway, as a reminder that today’s multidisciplinary care demands quality consistency across all disciplines.

As the saying goes, never waste a crisis, because crisis affords an opportunity to bring about change. Maybe a more academic examination of our current adaptations would help us build a better post-pandemic practice, as a salvage of the “good” from these otherwise troubling times.